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British Mystery Series – Roaring Twenties

I’m  a huge fan of mysteries, an interest that began as a child reading Trixie Belden, Three Investigators and Enid Blyton.  Years on I discovered Agatha Christie and Father Brown, once I’d read all those titles the hunt has continued for other authors.  Over the years I’ve discovered some real gems (and some real duds), sharing some gems with you.

Lately I’ve discovered and am enjoying a few series set just after World War 1.   In all three series the protagonist is a female investigator, in a time when roles for women were changing, a period of huge social change though it was still to take many battles before all women were to receive the vote, equal pay, equal rights etc.  All three authors weave a great deal of social history into the series and I’ve been challenged to ponder on how women today take many reforms for granted.

Jacqueline Winspear’s novels feature Maisie Dobbs, a psychologist and investigator, who began working at 13 as a servant in a Belgravia mansion. Early one morning she was discovered reading in the library by her employer, Lady Compton.  Surprisingly she wasn’t dismissed but her education supported and directed by Lady Rowan and family friend Dr Maurice Blance.  Just after beginning studies at Girton College the Great War breaks out and Maisie enlisted for nursing overseas.

During the War she falls in love with a young Doctor and becomes engaged, there is a related mystery that is entwined for several novels, certainly her lost love explains her melancholy at times.

The first novel begins in 1929, Maisie has completed an apprenticeship with Maurice, who had been revered for his work with Scotland Yard, and she sets up her own business.  The novels are an interesting blend of detective work and psychological understanding.  Entwined throughout is the development of Maisie’s character and the lives of those close to her.  Thus far Winspear has written 10 novels. Highly recommended.

Carola Dunn has written 20 novels featuring Daisy Dalrymple.  Daisy is the daughter of  a Viscount, who begins her career as a writer in 1922, driven by a need for financial and emotional independence from her family.  In the first novel she meets Detective Inspector Alex Fletcher from Scotland Yard and assists him in solving a murder.  Several books later they marry, defying class boundaries.  Daisy’s guileless blue eyes led many people to confide in her, information that helps her husband solve cases, much to his discomfort.  Like Maisie Dobbs, Daisy is not a typical woman of her times, I found her an immensely likeable character.  Highly recommended.

Kate Shackleton is the leading character of Frances Brody‘s mystery series. Kate was widowed in WW1 and developed a reputation for finding missing persons whilst she searched for her own missing husband.  The first novel of the series opens with Kate embarking upon her official career as a private detective. As Kate solves mysteries the side mystery of Kate’s own parentage, who was adopted as a baby, is unfurled.  Kate is an interesting character, not willing to be hindered by the social stereotyping of her times.  Brody has written 5 novels in this series. Highly recommended.

*Love to hear if you enjoyed these novels or have other mystery series to recommend.

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